more northwest goodness

June 22, 2009

well-written recipes
well-written recipes

As if my roundup of romance wasn’t enough, here’s something else to tempt you:

Local, national authors dish up their favorite recipes

By Mary Ann Gwinn

Seattle Times book editor

At my book club, things always go better with food. Amateur critics may disagree; politics has been known to trump the chosen title as the matter under discussion. But a good dinner or a sublime dessert grounds the clash of ideas in the comfort of animal appetites.

A new local cookbook combines the world of food and books: “Literary Feast: The Famous Authors Cookbook” has just been issued by the King County Library System Foundation. Compiled and edited by Terry J. LaBrue, with a foreword by local chef/author Greg Atkinson, this compendium may ease your way as you contemplate what to serve for your next literary gathering.

Though the book largely focuses on Northwest authors, it includes some A-list national writers and their recipes: Arthur Agatston, M.D. (Mr. South Beach Diet); the mystery-writing spousal unit Faye and Jonathan Kellerman. Jacquelyn Mitchard! Alice Waters! Alexander McCall Smith’s recipe for Mma Potokwani’s Fruit Cake!

Contributions by area authors seem to fall into two categories: complicated and simple. This feeds my theory that authors, like other creative types, either throw themselves into cooking (if they love it) or consider it time wasted (if they don’t).

In the “complicated” category falls science-fiction author Greg Bear’s recipe for Chicken Mole Poblano, which actually appears to be his wife Astrid Bear’s creation. Bear describes this dish as “mouthwatering” and says he and his spouse serve it each year at their home to celebrate the annual Clarion West workshop for budding science-fiction writers.

Also complicated is Seattle author Garth Stein’s recipe for Clams with Sausage, Beans and Pasta, which makes sense, since Stein managed to craft a best-seller with a dog as a narrator (“The Art of Racing in the Rain”).

“This recipe evolved from a simple cannellini bean and garlic side dish I used to make for my wife when we were first married,” he writes. “Later, I added more stock, Parmesan and some escarole, and it became a soup. And finally, I got to this form after I saw someone cook clams and sausages together on TV — I didn’t know that was possible!” Stein appears to be what my long-ago psychology professor called a “divergent thinker.”

But the most useful recipes may be the simplest, the ones in which writers create fuel to keep on writing. Kit Bakke, author of “Miss Alcott’s E-Mail,” contributes Real Graham Crackers, because Louisa May Alcott’s family probably ate them. Children’s author Brenda Z. Guiberson’s recipe for “Writer’s Almost Nonstop Soup” is what it says — a nourishing soup, always on the stove, so you can keep on writing.

And my favorite: Portland author Chelsea Cain’s recipe for Pizza à la Chelsea Cain:

1 healthy cup laziness

The telephone number of your local fine pizza establishment

Approximately $25, with tip

Salt and pepper (to taste).

You know where this is going.

“Literary Feast: The Famous Authors Cookbook” can be ordered at; you can find it at bookstores later this summer. Proceeds go to local literacy and lifelong-learning programs.

Mary Ann Gwinn: 206-464-2357 or Mary Ann Gwinn appears on Classical KING-FM’s Arts Channel at www.king.orpages/4216533.php

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company. Permission to reprint or copy this article or photo, other than personal use, must be obtained from The Seattle Times. Call 206-464-3113 or with your request.

My contribution–inexplicably not mentioned in the otherwise-terrific review–originated right here on this blogRosemary Olive Oil Cake. I’m thinking it falls in the “simple” category. It’s fabulous. I just had a note from my friend Stephanie, who adapted it for Weight Watchers.

What about you? Do you like to cook “simple” or “complicated”? Post links to your fave recipes below!

  • It depends on how much time I have as to rather I throw together simple or spend time to do complicated.

    One of my favorite recipes that takes time to get all the ingredients ready is Morning Muffins from the Sky River Bakery. They freeze wonderfully and are especially good with scrambled eggs. The recipe now has spread to Mississippi as I served them to my husband’s sister when she was here in Kansas and now she makes them down there.

    Emeril’s Pepper Steak is another time consuming dish but oh so yummy.

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